on November 20, 2013
First, let me just say that I'm over 50 years of age. I say that because I know there's a lot of folks that grew up in my era with kids that sucked them into playing video games. My kids are now 24 and 28, and have been trying to get me to play Skyrim since it's release. I've been playing for about a month now.
What it's Like
Skyrim (for those who haven't played this type of game) is a free-roaming open world game where you play in virtually any style you like. There are "main" quest lines that help the game progress, but you can easily spend hours doing little side quests, exploring, mining, gathering, hunting and simply immersing yourself in the world of Skyrim. If you played any of the Fallout games, the mechanics are very similar. The realism of the graphics and the first (or 3rd) person game play is quite compelling.
I've been a PS3 gamer for almost 2 months now (hold your applause till the end please!). The controls were relatively simple for me to pick up. They made sense and only took a few beginner-mode quests to get the hang of it. There are multiple menus to navigate (like the Fallout series), but that's what comes with a very expansive and versatile experience like Skyrim. Your character moves with the left stick, while you adjust your view angle with the right. It's relatively simple once you get the hang of it. Pushing down on the right controller arm changes your perspective from first person (you see from your characters perspective) to 3rd person (you see from behind your character). Overall, controls are extremely similar to Fallout.
This is a massive storyline that will keep you glued to the couch for longer than you should be. If you have things you need to get done, don't turn this game on. The game goes to great lengths to pull you into multiple story lines, rewarding you for each of the paths you follow. Your play style is completely up to you in Skyrim. You have an extremely versatile skill assignment tree that lets you buff your health, stamina, magic, crafting, potion, spell casting and many other areas of your character development. You can literally play this game in dozens of character configurations. I've been running through buffing my ranged and defensive skills, while letting my mercenary carry all my heavy stuff and tank for me. (oh yea. You get mercenaries to carry all your loot. . . also, did i mention loot?). You can easily craft a mage, a tank, a stealth back-stabbing rogue, an archer or any other character (or combination thereof). In short, the game play is extremely compelling and fun. It's both rewarding and well thought out.
As with other games (like World of Warcraft), the crafting requires materials. You can easily gather materials from mining, hunting and gathering. Unlike many titles, Skyrim doesn't make you pick a specific gathering skill. You can collect plants for potions, leather for clothes and armor, and minerals and ore for heavier armor and weapons. Skills are honed by creating items. The more you create in a school (potions, weapons, armor) the more you level up that school. Materials of all types are plentiful and crafting is a fun distraction that can easily be woven into your pursuit of questing initiatives.
Skyrim is a vast world where you encounter many major cities, small towns, vast amounts of engaging NPCs (non-player characters) and a variety of critters, trolls, wildlife and of course Dragons. The free-roaming play style lets you engage the world as you'd like. Spending time on the specifics of the game that you find to your liking. Each town has multiple opportunities to quest, gain faction, establish your character reputation and to simply explore and enjoy. I can't honestly say how vast the world is because I've been playing it for weeks now, and still have a full quest log. There's much to do in the world of Skyrim.
Good Guy or Bad Guy?
Much like Fallout, you get to pick how your characters personality evolves. You can choose to steal, murder and pillage. Naturally these choices come with bounties and other consequences one would expect when they don't play nice. Or you can choose to be helpful, kind and honorable. Both fine choices and lead to varying alternatives throughout the game. This aspect alone lends itself to the replay value of Skyrim. Hone your persuasion skillls and experience different dialog and outcomes based on your ability to convince others.
Werewolves and Vampires?
Yep. You can turn into a werewolf and/or a vampire and play in that fashion if you'd like. You start as a live character, but can easily (and accidentally) get vampirism from the bite of a vampire. If you don't cure it, you develop an entirely new skill set, along with a peculiar taste for human blood. Yet another avenue that you can follow in Skyrim if it suits your play style. Don't want to be one, no sweat. There's a cure. It took me hours to figure it out and get cured, but the entire process was fun!
A House, a wife and a couple of kids?
Skyrim lets you buy houses in the major towns, provided you've got the cash and have met the prerequisites for these purchases. Buying a house is pretty much a necessity if you plan to continue to explore dungeons and reap the fat loot rewards. You'll need somewhere to store your stuff. Once you have a house, you can choose to marry (a wife or husband) and even adopt a few kids. Skyrim is an extremely engaging experience.
A bit of a negative, but tolerable
The load times on this game (as others have reported) are somewhat lengthy. It could easily take 60 seconds or longer to engage in a save or a load, so keep that in mind when you play. I also (highly) recommend saving your progress often. I bought my first horse after a struggle to acquire the 1000 gold required to do so. Shortly thereafter, he was killed by a bear. Realizing I hadn't saved since mid-way through a dungeon, I had to repeat 2 hours of play to once again buy my horse. Save early and save often. Oh, and if you "lose" your horse (misplace him or he runs off), don't worry. Just fast travel to the next town. He'll be waiting by the stable if you didn't kill him.
I see this title being on my replay list for quite some time. The storyline is engaging, the NPCs are fun and well thought out. The voice acting is great and the side quests will keep you busy for days. The ability to shape your character in any way you'd like, coupled with the depth of the story and the massive amounts of quests makes this title repayable. I will spin other characters to try other play styles and wander through the world of Skyrim many more times. Oh, and the music is great.
TL;DR (too long, didn't read)
Skyrim is fun, engaging and epic from an adventure standpoint. Character customization is virtually limiteless, and only bound by the selections you make. You pick your playstyle, you pick your talents, you pick your journeys and the storyline will help you find a destination. This title is a keeper. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do. I should have bought it years ago when my kids told me "Dad. .you gotta play Skyrim!"